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The Forgotten 261 6 Cylinder Engine

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Between 1954-1962, Chevrolet produced their famous full oil pressure 235 cubic inch six cylinder in trucks and it soon proved to be one of the greats among engines. However, at the same time a lesser known “big brother” to this base engine was being used. This was the quality built 261 cubic inch six cylinder! The 261 was available in 2 ton (5000 or 6000 series) trucks and school buses. During it’s early years (1954-1957) it was an extra cost option above the standard 235 six cylinder.

In 1958-6192 (the 261 now had a full flow remote oil filter) it became standard in the 2 ton chassis up to 19,000 pounds gross weight. Above that Chevrolet substituted a V-8.

This larger six was not offered in US cars, however there was an exception in Canadian built full size Pontiacs. Their base engine, also produced only in Canada, was the 261 not the V-8 as in the US. This provided basic power, great dependability, and better gas mileage.

Basically, this larger engine was a 235 with the same crankshaft but GM engineers made various modifications to give it extra strength and horsepower. It’s standard bore diameter increased from 3-9/16 inches to 3-3/4 inches. The connecting rods were heavier and attached to increased diameter piston wrist pins.

Its higher lift cam shaft, for better breathing, was shared only with the early 235 six cylinder Corvette. A modified larger Rochester carburetor was also a 261 only feature. Unfortunately most of these larger sixes have long since had their original Rochesters replaced with 235’s and therefore do not perform to their full potential.

In pure big truck form the 261 has a larger thermostat housing holding a double acting thermostat. This is designed to circulate water through the block and head before the thermostat opens to allow hot water into the radiator. Thus, no internal steam hot spots during warm ups, especially in winter. This is particularly important with very cold coolant. Vital engine spots can become very hot before the total coolant becomes hot enough to open a normal thermostat on the front of the block.

 

261 engine 1

 

6 Cylinder Engines Jobmaster Thriftmaster
Displacement 261 Cu.In. 235.5 Cu. In.
Bore 3 3/4″ 3 9/16″
Stroke 3 15/16″ 3 15/16″
Firing Order 1-5-3-6-2-4 1-5-3-6-2-4
Compression Ratio 7.8 to 1 8 to 1
Horsepower 33.7 (AMA) 148 (Rated) 30.4 (AMA) 140 (Rated)
No.of Main Bearings 4 4
Wrist Pin Diameter .927 inches .875 inches
Rod Shaft Thickness Front to Back .595 inches .595 inches
Rod Shaft Thickness Side to Side .975 inches .760 inches
Crankshaft Journel Diameter 2.435 2.435
Engine Color in trucks Green -some later Yellow Gray

 

The block and head surface have three pair of matching small “steam holes” that allow any steam hot pockets to vent away from the open water cooled areas between the cylinders that are not solid metal. Of course, this means the 261 must have its own specialized head gasket.

261 engine 2

 

After four years into production, the major quality feature was added to the 261 engine. For the first time a Chevrolet inline six cylinder came standard with a full flow oil filter system. This improvement, used only with the later 261, forced oil through a remote filter cartridge before it reached the engine. It was not like the optional by-pass oil filter system as found on 216 and 235 Chevrolet sixes. This extra helped insure longer life to this larger six cylinder that was often subjected to heavy commercial use.

A full flow oil system has been a characteristic of almost all automotive engines for over 40 years but it was just beginning in the mid 1950’s. With the 261, the disposable filter is remote and not built in as with later engines. It still resulted in a major design improvement.

As with the 235 light truck engine, the 261 came standard with solid valve lifters and an aluminum camshaft timing gear. The passenger car’s 235 was equipped with hydraulic valve lifters and a fiber timing gear for quieter operation.

During the 1955-1962 Canadian Pontiac application the lifters were the hydraulic type, the cam gear was fiber not aluminum, and it did not have the full flow oil filter. These Canadian made 261’s did not add the full flow filter in 1958 as in the U.S.

Visually the 261 looks almost identical to the 235. It perfectly replaces the smaller engine and in stock condition increases horsepower from 140 to 148.

Those planning on a major rebuild or adding performance options to their Chevrolet inline six should seriously consider locating a 261. Often there is no extra cost in purchasing a re-buildable unit, and the results will be rewarding. If you plan on adding additional carburetion, a higher lift cam, or just want additional performance and more lower end strength in your daily driver, the 261 is for you!

Locating and Identifying a 261

Though last placed in larger Chevrolet trucks almost 40 years ago, this now scarce engine can still be located and often at a price no higher than for the smaller 235. Many still remain in the original Chevrolet trucks and are now setting in salvage yards or behind farm buildings. In Canada, the big Pontiac cars are sometimes in the back rows of more isolated older wrecking yards.

Don’t overlook the wrecked and badly rusted Chevrolet cars of the 1940’s and 1950’s, particularly those showing signs of some past exterior customizing changes. The Chevrolet enthusiasts of that era knew about the 261 and its potential for added performance. Some of these will already have had extras added such as a higher lift cam shaft, extra carburetion, or dual exhausts.

When you have found what you suspect might be a 261, check a few specifies to verify you have the real thing and not the visual almost identical 235. Casting numbers, not stamped numbers, on the 261 head are very visible beside the rocker arm cover. A different set of numbers relate to the 261 block. These seven digits are located on the right side between the fuel pump and starter except for 1954 where it is located forward of the fuel pump. See chart below.

YEAR ENGINE SIZE BLOCK NUMBER HEAD NUMBER
54-55 261 3703414 3733950 3703570 3836850
55-57 261 3733340 3837012 3703570 3836850
58-62 261 3739365 3769717 3769925 3836850

 

Watch for the “Captain’s Bars!” The 261 has two pairs of parallel raised 3/4 inch long bars cast in the block. This is not seen on a 235 except 1954. One pair is above the starter and the second pair is at the top middle of the left side of the block very close to the head. See photos below. The one exception is the early 261 produced in 1954 to mid 1955. It has only one “Captain Bar” above the starter but keeps the pair on the left side.

261 engine 3

261 engine 4

261 engine 5

261 engine 6

 

Most used 261 blocks are rebuildable, however often their cylinder heads will have a few very small cracks in the combustion chamber. This is typical due to occasional abuse of over heating in past years. If you choose not to add to your expense by having the cracks repaired, an alternative exists. The more common 235 head is the same except for the three pair of internal steam holes. These can be manually drilled to make the water flow just like in the 261! Sorry, but some 235 heads can be cracked even more than the 261 because they lack heat releasing steam holes.

“Warning” When Installing a 261!

The stock remote filter system has two very visible 3/4″ lines threaded into the block. One is from the pump to the filter and the other from the filter back to the block. Oil must leave and return to the engine by these lines (even if the filter is eliminated) or the engine will fail from lack of lubricant. Many 261 engines have been quickly seized after persons plugged the two oil line holes. They had many years experience on Chevrolet engines without the full flow oil system. Some thought it was an easy fix to just remove the 3/4″ lines if one was leaking and cap the holes. This procedure was acceptable on the older 216 and 235 but never on the 1958-1962 261 truck engine.

Buy Parts for 1947 to 1955 Trucks

 

1946 Chevrolet from Tommie Jones

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Owner: Tommie Jones

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 Chevrolet

I am glad that you have shown an interest in my pickup. It was purchased from a local theater in 1964 they used it to carry a billboard in the back. After purchase it was used to carry feed and seed on the farm. After purchase of a newer pickup my Dad’s employee used it to carry fuel and supplies to a bull dozer until the engine was beginning to fail. At that time it was parked on blocks with wheels removed in about 1970. Had thought about working on it on and off occasionally, but never did. I retired from the Texas Department of Transportation in 2007 after 26 years. Did some fence building, built a hay barn and added a room on my shop which was useful when I started on the project.

On the first of November last year put two of the tires that had been originally on it when parked and brought it to the shop. Spent about a week taking it apart and checking the condition of the parts. Saw that all the brakes and drums would need replacing. Had read it was best to get the frame and body worked first so removed everything from the frame and started sand blasting. After sand blasting everything was treated with Ospho and primed and stored inside. The battery box was replaced and the front springs which were broken. After this was together and painted checked the engine out. It had frozen where it couldn’t be repaired so decided to go with a 235. Didn’t find one, but did find a useable 261 from an old truck. Carried the head to the machine shop to be worked. Ordered parts and did the other motor work myself. The head was the only thing that I didn’t do myself. Had worked on the farm and Highway Department so experience on mechanical work. Now started on the body, had to replace windows, door handles, fuel tank and floor board. Only rusted out places were where varmints had piled dirt between front fender and cab. This was my first major body work and painting so that was a learning experience. Fenders were rather rough so had to do quite a bit of work on them. Looked at bed kits, but was in Home Depot one day and saw some wood I liked so bought. Cut to fit and grooved for bed strips. Had joined a local car club the first of this year and they were having a car show the last of September. Was close, but was able take it to it. Wanted to use original Chevy colors so checked paint chips and found the Suburban colors I liked. Left the grille painted because it was originally and chrome was so expensive. The colors are top Airedale brown and bottom Cireassian brown and interior the hammered tan. Again want to thank you for your interest for it was a very interesting project. All parts were purchased from Jim Carter except a few on e-bay.

Tommie Jones
401 CR 115
Comanche, TX 76442
254-842-5863

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

1946 chevrolet pick up truck

Early Gas Tank Changes

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the three years of this cab design, subtle changes occurred as GM engineers learned better ways to construct this truck. The gas tank changes on the pickup body style was probably the most obvious and it was different each of the three years.

In 1936, the new mid year low cab pickup continued with the earlier practice of securing the tank under the bed and behind the rear axle. The gas add spout extended through a hole in the lower bed side behind the right rear fender. Thought it might seem like a good location, it was not. Considering the trucks stiff suspension the poor roads of the 1930’s, and how rough trucks were treated, this location resulted in tanks leaks and cracked fuel lines that were over 6 feet from the engine.

The answer to this problem came out in the 1937 trucks. The tank was moved to the protected area under the cab seat cushion. This solved prior problems but the improvement did not go far enough. The fuel add hole was in the top of the tank on the passenger side. To gain access to the threaded plug to add fuel, the right side of a new split bottom cushion was raised or removed. Rain or shine, the passenger would stand outside and wait for fueling so the seat cushion could be replaced. Of course, any accidental spills or splashing from the spout would give fumes within the cab till the evaporation was complete. What if you lit a cigarette out of habit? What about a small electrical short under the dash? Your imagination can tell you what probably happened a few times over the years.

The engineers seem to have got it together in mid 1938. They redesigned the 1937 tank and cab so that gasoline was added through a spout that now extended out the cab corner. The bottom seat cushion was then one piece, however, for several months two piece bottoms were still used on the assembly line until supplies were exhausted. Therefore, the late 1938 tank was used less than one year and is very rare today. The new designed 1939 body style continued with this type tank and cab design but the 39 tank will not interchange in the earlier cab.

early gas tank changes 1

1937 ( above)

early gas tank changes 2

1937 (above)

early gas tank changes 3

1937 (above)

early gas tank changes 4

1937 (above)

early gas tank changes 5

1938 (above)

early gas tank changes 6

1938 (above)

early gas tank changes 7

Gas Spout Hole from Outside

early gas tank changes 8

Gas Spout Hole from Inside

Early Chevy and GMC Engine Trivia

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Though the major cab and fender sheet metal change began in mid 1947 (Advance Design), both the Chevrolet and GMC trucks kept their same proven six cylinder engines as used in prior years.

The base engine in GMC light trucks was the 228 cubic inch inline six cylinder introduced in 1939. This overhead valve unit had a full pressure oil system with its rod and main bearings lubricated from drilled lines within the crankshaft. Their high oil pressure is reflected on the dash gauge reading 0-50 pounds.

This family of engines during the Advance Design years also produced the 248 and 270 cubic inch units. The cylinder diameter in their main difference. They all share the same overhaul gaskets, water pumps, oil pans, distributors and side plates. On GMC, not Chevrolet, the cubic inch is the first three digits of the stamped serial number on the flat surface behind the distributor.

Chevrolet’s six cylinder used during most of the Advance Design years was very different from the GMC. Its standard 216 cubic inch engine was a result of continual improvements since the first Chevrolet six cylinder began in 1929. The 1940’s 216 truck engines were almost identical to that in the Chevrolet car. Therefore, millions of 216’s were on the road by the beginning of 1947. Their basic design and easy maintenance made them one of the greats in lower priced vehicles. When used on the roads of that era, they provided dependable service both on the farm and in the city.

The 216 engine was the standard power plant in the 3000 and 4000 series trucks. Its big brother, the 235 was optional on the 4000 series and standard on the 5000 and 6000 series. It is almost identical to the 216 but the increased displacement gave the needed extra power to work trucks. The 235 truck engine was not used in pickups, however, was matched to the Powerglide transmission cars with some modifications between 1950-53.

These 216 and early 235 are designed to operate without oil lines drilled in the crankshaft to lubricate their bearings.

The early 235 should not be confused with the more famous later 235 full pressure engine first introduced in Powerglide Chevrolet cars and the Corvette in 1953. During this transition year trucks continued to have the lower pressure design. By 1954 the full oil pressure 235 became the standard of the Chevrolet fleet. It was modified for trucks by using solid valve lifters in place of the hydraulics in cars. The camshaft gear was changed from fiber to aluminum.

Closed Drive Shafts

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Occasionally we hear owners condemning the closed drive shaft system used in the 1/2 ton trucks prior to 1955. After questioning the negative comment, we almost always discover the real criticism is the low gearing of the ring and pinion in the differential. Yes, this lower gear ratio was created more for slower roads of year gone by, but it is by far not a poorly designed system. In fact, it is questioned if there has ever been drive shaft and u-joint combinations that exceed the durability of this GM quality engineered closed unit.

Over 50% of the surviving older 1/2 ton pickups continue to use their original closed systems. Of these, the majority have had little or no servicing other than keeping lubrications in the transmission and differential.

Consider this when you realize the last GM closed drive shaft system was produced in 1954. Many others have been in irregular service prior to the 1920’s. Also remember that many 1/2 ton pickups were often given abuse far in excess of the manufacturer’s recommendations.

What modern open drive shaft system has been able to compare with this unsurpassed record? None!! Sure, the newer open u-joints are easier to change. They better be. They require attention or replacement so much more frequently!

Another Example of GM Quality!!!

We recently received the following comment from John Berkeley Ball. He also confirms the quality of the General Motor’s 1/2 ton closed drive shaft and differential.

Dear Jim Carter

Thanks for your excellent articles. One very pertinent point I feel that you should mention about closed drive shafts is their absolute impervability to rear spring wind up. Used on the farm over soft ground with heavy loads, you could not afford to send your rear end into drive breaking pulsations every time you lost traction, whether the shocks were worn out or not (some were single action any way). What a huge advantage over the Hotchkiss rear end! this is an often unknown design attribute that Chevy engineers were unfoundedly maligned for – at least by today’s city slickers…

John Ball

You may relate comments to this web site or Mr. Ball direct at john_ball@telus.net.

216 Oil Leaks

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

And now we’ve seen it all! A real example of American ingenuity.

Designed by an aftermarket company to keep an over tightened valve cover from leaking motor oil down the engine sides.  A metal band is pushed over and around the base of the valve cover.  Brass U-brackets are then secured by the two valve cover studs.  This creates equal pressure around the valve cover perimeter to stop the leaks down the side of the engine.

Scott states he has seen these brackets on another 216 engine. Maybe a company in that area once offered them at local auto parts stores.

This photo was taken by Scott Golding, a resident of Western Nebraska.

216 Oil Leaks

E-mail scottandbetty@hotmail.com. Scott states he has seen these brackets on another 216 engine. Maybe a company in that area once offered them at local auto parts stores.

Your opinion is welcomed.

 

1937 or Older Chevrolet Pressure Plate

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Rebuilding the 1937 and older pressure plate can be a little tricky. The early design (activated with a carbon throw out bearing under pressure) requires extra steps when being rebuilt. With the help of an older shop manual (see below) the final details can be successful.

The personal letter is from Richard Wright of Westtown, NY. He did not receive the necessary final touches in the rebuilding procedure and he made the final adjustments. Fortunately, the 1935 Chevrolet shop manual has a description of how to complete this procedure. The following letter, pictures and shop manual page should be of help in the rebuilding procedure. A more advanced pressure plate was introduced in 1938. A new diaphragm design then became a standard in Chevrolet for 30 years.

NOTE:

The “X” mark on the clutch cover should be lined up as near as is possible with the “X” mark on the flywheel. These “X” marks are balance marks.

Place clutch pilot tool, Fig.99 into position. This tool properly lines up to the disc so that when the transmission is assembled the splines on the main drive gear shaft will line up and enter easily the splines in the clutch disc.

Assemble the nine cap screws holding the clutch cover to the flywheel, tightening each one , one turn at a time until the cover is assembled into position. Remove the clutch disc aligning tool. Assemble throwout bearing sleeve.

CLUTCH LEVER HEIGHTS

It is very important that the clutch levers be of the same height to assure correct clutch operation. In addition to the clutch levers being the same height, the maximum run-out of the clutch throw-out bearing plate should not exceed .020″ when measured with an indicator guage placed on the clutch housing.

clutch adjustments 1937 chevrolet

The checking and correcting may be done after the transmission and clutch throw-out collar have been removed.

To check run-out, place the indicator guage on the clutch housing through the transmission hole as shown in Fig 100. Set the dial guage at zero and check run-out while turning engine. If run-out exceeds .020″ the high lever plate should be shimmed-up by placing a shim under each side of the plate at the attaching bolts, which will result in dropping the high finger. Connecting rod shims with the ends trimmed may be used.

REPLACEMENT OF TRANSMISSION

These operations are just the reverse of the removal operations. The tool shown in Fig 101 can be used to hold the universal joint rings in position while assembling the nuts.

1937 clutch adjustments chevrolet

CLUTCH PEDAL ADJUSTMENT

There are two very important adjustments to the clutch pedal. The first is for obtaining the proper clearance between the clutch pedal and the floor board and the second for obtaining 1″ of the pedal travel before the clutch begins to disengage. These two adjustments compensate for wear of the clutch parts, and if these two operations are performed when necessary, long trouble free clutch operation can be expected.

1937 clutch adjustments chevrolet

To obtain 1/2″ clearance between the clutch pedal and the floor board, loosen nuts “A” and “B” in Fig 102 and move the pedal stop either forward or backward until the clutch pedal clears the floor board 1/2″


1937 Chevrolet 1

1937 Chevrolet 2

1937 Chevrolet 3


Below is a letter from Richard Wright of Westtown, NY.

1937 Chevrolet 1937 Chevrolet

1938-1953 Clutch Disc

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Chevrolet introduced their basic nine inch single disc clutch and corresponding diaphragm pressure plate in 1938. This pair was used in their cars and most 1/2 ton pickups with three speed transmissions through 1953. With about one million of these vehicles sold annually, one can quickly realize the high numbers of this clutch system that was at one time on the highway.

Even in 1954 with the introduction of the larger 10 inch clutch disc and modified pressure plate on the new 235 six cylinder, the original design continued to sell very well as aftermarket replacements. Today, they still have a strong demand even though the majority of these over fifty year old vehicles are history. Most auto part stores now keep a pair in inventory for their walk-in customers.

1938-1953 Clutch

To add even more validity to this clutch’s durability, GM reintroduced it in the late 1960’s. General Motors was a major producer of full size passenger buses and the demand for most having the optional air conditioning was becoming strong. Almost all new buses would now be equipped with the option. The original small nine inch clutch was combined with the newly engineered large bus AC compressor. Once again, this proven clutch was serving automotive needs!

Therefore, if you find a source for new or core clutch assemblies used from the late 1960’s to at least the mid 1970’s in GM buses, they will also fit 1938-53 cars and small trucks.

Ghost Windows

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The door window is cranked up tight in the cloth channel and off you go on your daily errands. Suddenly, the glass begins to slowly lowers as you drive over side roads or contact a rough surface. In comes cold air, rain, and wind! Even the window handle turns. What’s this all about? Do you tape the window closed or wire the handle so it will not turn?

You have a window regulator spring problem! This large 2″ diameter round spring has either broken or become disconnected.

With no spring tension on the regulator, the weight of the glass creates the lowering of the support arm and window. Sorry, there is no good fix other than removing the regulator from inside the door. The picture below shows this circular Clock spring. It must be large to hold the weight of the glass panel.

ghost window

1939-1946 Electric Wiper Motor

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

electric wiper motor 1

Even if you prefer an original vacuum wiper motor for these years rebuildable cores have become very rare and most New Old Stock units are just not obtainable. Even new ones have their lubrication dry after 70 years.

For those that won’t except a slow moving or non-working used vacuum unit, an alternative does exist. New electric motors are now on the market in both 6 and 12 volt styles. The above photo shows a new unit before installation.

You will no longer need the original inside wiper cover plate with the indention. Replace it with the included non-indented style which gives a smooth finish.

The electric wires can be run inside the windshield post to a switch of your choice under the dash.

These kits can be obtained from Jim Carter Truck Parts at 1-800-842-1913.

Swing Out Military Windshield, 1936-1946 Chevrolet and GMC

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the early years of auto and truck design, most vehicles came with their windshields capable of tipping outward. This helped poorly insulated cabs to be more bearable during hot weather. Extra outside air would be forced into the cab and replaced some of the hot air radiating from the bare sheet metal firewall.

This idea was good but not without a few problems. Unfortunately, air movement depended on the speed of the vehicle. The faster the driving, the more air circulation. Too bad for the driver in stop and go city traffic during a hot summer day.

In GM trucks, water leaks into the cab developed as the rubber edge seal began to age. The under dash crank-out gear assembly (1936-46) was not easily reached and therefore almost never received lubrication. The gear would wear and later most became non-usable. It was then necessary to close the windshield frame permanently and the cab lost a major method of getting air flow on hot days.

The system was expensive to produce! A pair of swing hinges, a crank-out assembly, and two windshield halves added to production costs.

This windshield vent system was stopped with the introduction of the 1947 Advance Design cab. The two piece windshield now became permanently sealed. An insulated interior fire wall pad was standard. A left side cowl vent intake door forced outside air over the drivers feet and lower legs. (Of course, this was also when the truck was moving.)

A top cowl vent door (also on earlier trucks) now had a screen to prevent entry of insects. Thus, this was the end of the swing-out windshield. They were a great help on hot days when the vehicle was moving, but inevitable gear wear began a new set of problems for later years.

NOTE: During World War II, the military using civilian cabs on their larger trucks had no patience for this crank-out assembly. They wanted no malfunction in the open position while being in a Russian or German winter. They even placed the windshield hinges on the roof for less complicated repairs in the field.

Therefore, the military went back to the swing out windshield frame design that opened manually by the driver. This system was used on all 1936 and older High Cab Chevrolet trucks, Model A Fords, and so many other early automobiles that needed more ventilation. See Photos.

WWII Cab 9

WWII Cab 5

WWII Cab3

1939-1946 Door Windows

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During 1939-40 Door window breakage on truck cabs became a problem. As the cloth fabric in the door window channel became worn, the large and now loose fitting side windows were susceptible to cracking when the door was slammed. Complaints from dealers resulted in an improvement on 1941-46 doors. A one piece metal frame was placed around the edges of the top and sides of the glass and the breakage was greatly reduced. To make room for these new metal frames, the glass on the 1941-46 doors was now slightly smaller.

Therefore, the 1939-40 door glass and 1941-46 with metal frame will interchange in total in all 1939-46 doors. The smaller 1941-46 door glass can not be used without it’s frame or it will not seal into the cloth channel at the top of the window opening.

1939 door window

Chevrolet Cameo GMC Suburban Wheel Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

With the introduction of the new Cameo in 1955, GM added their most deluxe features as standard equipment. This “Boulevard Pickup” was to stand out above all others.

The wheel covers were not like that on the more standard pickup. To save tooling costs on this limited production model, GM used the wheel cover on the 1955 Chevrolet Belair car. Both vehicles had 15″ wheels so the top of the line car wheel cover was chosen for the new Cameo.

cameo wheel 1

1955 Wheel Cover (above)


The same procedure occurred in 1956. The Cameo carried the 1956 Chevrolet Belair full wheel cover, not the same design as 1955.

cameo wheel 1

1956 Wheel Cover (above)


The big change in Cameo wheel trim occurred with the 1957 model. This was the first year for the 14″ wheels on the passenger car. The Belair cover was no longer a fit for the Cameo 15″ wheels. GM’s answer was to chrome the standard white 1/2 ton hub cap. To add more to the appearance, a Cameo trim ring was created to cover the outer edge of the wheel.

cameo wheel 1

1957 1958 Hub Cap and Trim Ring (above)


With the limited Cameo production in 1958, the same wheel trim was used this final year.

The 1955 year was the first for factory installed whitewall tires. It made an excellent combination with the wheel trim. This is another major change in the GM deluxe 1/2 tons looking less than work trucks. The 15″ wheels remained the same during the four years of the Suburban Carrier. GM just chromed the small standard hub cap.  No wheel ring was used as standard equipment, however the wheel was given a contrasting light color.

cameo wheel 1

1957-1960 Hubcaps

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the early years of GM truck production, many examples exist which relate to their vehicles being designed more for work. Changing a trim part for appearance reasons was usually secondary if it resulted in unnecessary expense. Often parts were used that had already been on GM automobiles. This eliminated expensive new tooling costs and kept GM truck prices in line with the competition.

An excellent example of this type thinking is shown with the 1957-1960 hubcaps. Even though the 1960 pickup was a totally redesigned vehicle, GM carried their older hub cap on this new pickup. The reasoning goes back to keeping truck prices low. The 1960 1/2 ton wheel was to be the last carrying the inside spring clips to secure the hub caps. As truck hub caps were used several years, it was not likely a new 1960 design would be created for only one year. GM held off from using a redesigned hub cap until 1961 so that it would fit on the new non-clip wheel. To stay with tradition, this new 1/2 ton cap was then used three years.

To keep the 1960 3/4 and 1 ton hub cap appearances similar to the 1/2 ton, GM again retained the earlier style. This occurred even though the larger truck inside clip split rim wheel design was basically unchanged between 1946 and the late 1960’s.

Chevrolet and GMC each had their own different hub cab design during this time, however, they both changed styles at the same time. A full Chevrolet or GMC wheel cover was unavailable for the deluxe 1957-59 truck models. GM simply chromed their standard caps that were otherwise painted white. An optional chromed GM wheel ring could be added on the 1/2 ton series in 1957-1959 Chevrolet but not during 1960. These trim rings were stock on the 1957-1958 Cameo but dealer installed on other 1/2 tons.

In 1960, a full wheel cover was introduced on the Deluxe 1/2 Ton Package. Actually, it was from a 1956 Chevrolet Belair car and 1956 Chevrolet Cameo. Once again, GM used this stamping from five year old tooling and saved production costs.

1957 1960 hubcaps 1

1960 Wheel Covers (above)

Stainless Steel on the Deluxe 1/2 Ton Pickup. 15″ Wheels only.


1957 1960 hubcaps 2

1957-1959 Wheel Rings (above)

Chromed steel wheel rings that blend with optional chrome hub caps to give appearance of full-chrome wheels. 15″ wheels only.


1957 1960 hubcaps 3

Muffler Tech

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

muffler tech

Prior to about 1962, Chevrolet trucks were equipped with round straight through mufflers. These units reduced back pressure and allowed the engine to breathe to its full potential. This caused a little extra exhaust noise in comparison to the larger more engineered oval car mufflers but trucks were for work and power.

About 1950 truck mufflers were given slightly larger inlet and outlet pipes. This allowed increased air flow which related to the slightly larger carburetor installed that year.

During the late 1960’s the Chevrolet truck Master Parts Catalog no longer listed mufflers. It appears they discontinued these units and left them to be provided by auto parts stores. By about 1995 the larger 1950’s straight through muffler was the one style available and any remaining older pipes were modified to fit 2″ inlet and 1 7/8″ outlets. Length is about 20 ½ inches.

The cars were lower to the ground and thus, required an oval muffler.  This oval shape allowed it to be higher and less likely to hit an object on the road.  Trucks were high and a round muffler was satisfactory.

Correct copies of these mufflers are available from Jim Carter’s Classic Truck Parts and a few other full stocking GM truck dealers.

 

Wheel Striping

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the 1940’s through 1950’s placing pin stripes on automobile wheels occurred on most all brands. It was an inexpensive touch that added a little flair to the appearance of a new wheel. The stripe could be added quickly with a machine on a rotating wheel. The factory didn’t need a human as on the body stripes.

GM was no exception. They had been striping most new car wheels for almost 10 years. Beginning with the 1947 Advance Design trucks, this striping even was used on ½ tons that had the deluxe package (not the standard models). This extra was continued through the 1947-1955 body style.

The attached photo shows a used original never repainted 16″ 1/2 ton deluxe wheel. Note how perfect the 3/4″ stripes are applied. With the addition of the small chrome hub cap, the wheel drew attention

wheel striping 1

wheel striping 2

Sloppy Floor Shift Lever

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

sloppy floor shift lever

Problem: Slop in the shift pattern on 1947 Chevrolet & GMC 3 speed transmissions.

On the first year of the 1947-55 Advance Design trucks, their 3 speed transmission was a carryover from the prior years. It remained a floor shift unit, not a column shift as 1948 and newer. When shifting into 2nd gear finds your knuckles contacting the glove box door, repairs are needed and available.

 

Repairs:

Chevrolet did not plan on these 3 speed transmissions to be in use over 50 years so repairs in this area were not often discussed by GM. You can fix it anyway!

Remove the flat plate with the shift lever from transmission by taking out the 4 retaining bolts. (Be sure to replace this plate with cloth or cardboard so no foreign object falls inside.) Take the shift tower from the flat plate top by removing four retaining bolts. The shift lever and its 2 1/4 inch tension spring can now be taken from the tower.

Inside the top of the tower is the worn brass bushing causing most of the shift lever slop. A replacement with tension spring can be obtained from Jim Carter’s Truck Parts and most of their full stocking dealers.

1937-1947 3 Speed Shift Repair

Shift Pin

Sorry, exchanging the brass bushing will not solve all the problem. The long horizontal pin, through the shift lever ball, needs to be replaced. The pin will probably be worn on each end and needs replacement.

Using a drill bit is a good option for a new pin. If a 1/4 inch drill bit easily moves into the shift lever ball, move up to the next size. (Maybe as much as 9/32 inch drill bit). Use it to drill the hole oversize, then use this same drill bit as the new pin. After drilling, remove the drill portion on the bit, and you have a nice hardened pin! Note: do not cut the drill bit until you know the exact length needed. Get a correct size by turning the shift tower upside down and measuring the distance between the two notches to the tower walls.

Artillery Wheels

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The term artillery wheel is a nickname adapted from a scalloped type wheel often seen on US military vehicles in World War I. The similar appearance at a distance to GM’s scalloped steel wheels quickly gave them the name artillery.

On GM trucks, this style was first used during 1934-36 as a stock six bolt 1/2 ton 17 inch wheel. It was much stronger than the existing wire style wheels due to it being less susceptible to bending when hitting a large pot hole or sliding against a curb.

Though this 17 inch unit was discontinued on 1/2 tons for 1937, a redesigned 15 inch artillery began as GM’s stock wheel on that year’s 3/4 ton truck. It was stronger and wider but was still a non-split rim design. This remained the GM 3/4 ton wheel through 1945. By 1946, six bolt wheels on trucks were limited to 1/2 tons. The 3/4 ton would now have 15 inch 8 bolt split rims which remained stock into the 1960’s.

Today, we sometimes see 1947-59 GM 1/2 tons equipped with these early 15 inch artillery 3/4 ton wheels even though they were not placed on factory trucks after 1945. To many, they provide a unique appearance on the later 1/2 tons and will still hold the trucks current hub cap.

atrillery wheel 1

Regular 16″ Wheel (above)

artillery wheel 2

1934-1936 17″ Artillery Wheel (above)

artillery wheel 3

1937-1945 15″ Artillery Wheel (above)

After Market Wheels for Older GM Trucks

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

From 1934 to 1959 GM 1/2 tons came from the factory with a tie rod assembly that extended side to side to almost touch the front wheels. With everything stock, the tie rod sits about 3/4 inch from the inside of both original six hole wheels and all fits just right.

A problem exists when someone attempts to add a more modern wheel. For example, the mid 60’s and newer 4×4 wheels have this 6 hole bolt pattern but their width causes them to contact the end of original long tie rod. Changing from the approximate 4-1/2 inch original to at least a 6 inch width just won’t work.

Solutions for adding a more sporty wheel are very limited with the original suspension. One almost unknown method is to replace the original GM multi-piece tie rod ends with the more modern knuckle ends introduced in the 1960’s. There are currently available and are 3/8 inch shorter on the outer end giving that much extra room for a slightly wider wheel. (It is not recommended that flat washers be placed over the stud between the wheel and drum as this can cause breakage.)

This GM six bolt pattern is also shared with several Japanese pickups. Some very attractive more narrow aftermarket wheels have been produced for their imports in past years.

1967-1968 Buddy Seat

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

BUDDY SEATS 1967 1968 CHEVY

What an unusual seat on the 1967-68 Chevy/GMC pickups!  It was standard equipment on the “top of the line” Chevrolet CST and GMC Super Custom pickups.

The seat consisted of two bucket seats and a much smaller center cushion referred by many as a Buddy seat.  It allowed for a third passenger or the back cushion could be lowered horizontally to give an oversize arm rest.  When you lift the lower cushion there is a large storage area. All are covered with pleated vinyl.  Yes, three pair of seat belts were included.

The three cushions contained extra foam and better springs to give the owner a more comfortable ride.  These seats were part of a more deluxe cab that had not been available in prior years.  We have no documentation that they could even be special ordered on the larger 1 ½ and 2 tons.
BUDDY SEATS 1967 1968 CHEVY

GMC Super Custom Interiors

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

super custom interiors

GMC Super Custom Interiors offer the ultimate in comfort and style, including plush bucket seats with vinyl covering and matching center seat concole. The GMC Super Custom also includes appearance and comfort options from special horn button to carpeted floor.

1946-1972 3/4 Ton and 1 Ton Ring and Pinion

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

One series of the famous “drop out” GM differentials was used between 1946 and 1972 on 3/4 and 1 tons. The complete assembly (often called a pumpkin) will interchange during these years with no alteration.

The highest gearing in this series is the 4.10 ratio and is found in most 1967-72 3/4 tons with automatic transmissions. Therefore, those “low gear blues” often associated with 3/4 and 1 tons during the late 1940’s and 1950’s can be greatly improved with no visible exterior changes. Originally these older trucks had a ratio of 4.57 in the 3/4 tons and 5.14 in the 1 tons.

Once a 4.10 pumpkin is located (usually in a local wrecking yard) it is a basic interchange requiring little more than new gaskets and gear grease. Your truck’s personality is now changed!

This interchange will fit perfectly if the “complete” pumpkin is used.  The 1963-1972 carrier is necessary and it will be part of this total assembly.  The change-over will not work if you only use the ring and pinion.

The only negative to this changeover is if you are hauling a ton of gravel up a mountain road with the original smaller six cylinder!! In this example a lower geared differential is best.

Updating 1955-1959 Seats

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

For those not requiring the original seat cushions on their 1955-59 Task Force truck, a roomy comfortable substitute is available. This unit is from a 1988 body style Chevrolet or GMC truck and is almost a bolt-in.

The legs or side brackets on this newer seat comes attached to the cushions from a used truck and sets nicely by the floor edge of the 1955-1959 cab. It almost looks factory installed! Yes, the cushion edge will slightly touch the doors but cause no closing problems.

The result is a much softer seat and a definite increase in distance between your “middle” and the stock steering wheel. Almost no interference with the in cab fuel tank.

1958-1959 Deluxe Interior

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

It is sometimes asked by restorers, ‘What is the correct fabric for a 1958 Chevrolet Cameo or other deluxe cabs in 1958-59?’ Answer: The same cloth material was used on the top of the line seats and door panels throughout both years. Yes, the last year of the Cameos, discontinued at about mid 1958, used the same cloth as the deluxe non-Cameo cabs.

The following pictures show this interior material on a 1958 Cameo door panel, a 1959 Chevrolet deluxe cab with 12,000 original miles, and on a page from the 1959 Chevrolet Salesman’s Data Book.

This data is not known by many 1958 Cameo restorers and it does give them more places to obtain the correct material. As this material was used two years, upholstery shops having left-over partial rolls may have this rare upholstery material in storage!

1958 1959 deluxe interior 1

1958 1959 deluxe interior 2

1958 1959 deluxe interior 3

1958 1959 Deluxe Interior Informational Chart PDF version. Click Here

1939-1946 Replacement Seat Cushions

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Locating a pair of seat cushions for the 1939-46 truck has become very difficult in recent years. These early trucks increased popularity is the main reason for the shortage. Even when a pair of cushions are located the asking price often does not justify the purchase because of the age damage to the springs and frame of the lower cushion.

It is this lower cushion that has received the most wear in its 60 years. In a salvage yard the door or window left open for even a year allows rain water to soak the seat padding and hasten the damage.

As your hunt continues, here is a practical substitute that fits the cab well and gives the appearance of a re-upholstered original. Locate the common rear seat (not the middle) in a 1984-90 Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager mini-van. You can even pull the factory levers on the back and the seat is quickly removed. Most salvage yards have many extras and their pricing should be under $50.00. You will even get the seat belts!

With less use of this rear seat in the van, you can find one with no tears or permanent stains.

The next step is cleaning. Simply place it in the bed of your late model pickup and find a coin operated wand car wash. The hot soapy water will make the cloth covered cushion like new for less than $5.00. Leave it in your truck for a few hours until the water drip stops. Then place the cushion where it can dry. In about 24 hours, the job is done! The padding is closed cell foam and does not absorb water.

You won’t need most of the lower metal attaching brackets. Remove them and attach the remaining metal and cushions to your trucks original seat riser. Here is where you can be creative but it is done and the remaining metal will not be visible.

For the perfectionist, the cab tapers inward as it reaches the cowl. Thus, the two doors are slightly closer to each other at the front in a standard cab. This new van cushion will touch the front of the doors because of this taper. If you don’t like this contact with the door, an upholstery shop can place a taper in the lower cushion to parallel the inside door panel. A small portion of the foam edge can be removed from the front sides of the lower cushion.

Continue to search for the original 1939-46 seat cushions. In the meantime, you have very comfortable clean cushions with seat belts. Most people will think you had your originals reupholstered.

The following article and pictures were received from Brett Courcier. He personally used this type seat and is very satisfied.

My name is Brett Courcier. I live in Fremont Nebraska. I own a 1946 Chevy pickup street rod. I wanted to take a few pictures of how my seat fit in my truck. I was trying to find a seat for my truck. I found a Plymouth Caravan minivan rear seat. It fit great. I cut off the latching pieces that go in the minivan floor and welded on a piece of 2″ square tubing to the front legs and a piece of 1″ square tubing to the rear legs. The pictures show them. My upholsterer added lumbar support to the lower back area and also added 2″ in heigth to the back of the seat. The seat comes with three seat belts and folds forward from the back of the cab. We added a full length pouch across the back of the cab for storage. I hope the pictures show enough for you. If you have any questions please contact me.

Brett Courcier

402-727-7127 or e-mail baccourcier@team-national.com

NEWS FLASH!

We just had an email showing another excellent seat for a 1939-46 Chevy / GMC cab. This photo is of a rear seat cushion from a 1990 Ford mini van. Nice fit. This person found a top of the line leather seat in a local salvage yard. A good cleaning made it a very nice inexpensive seat that fit really well!

seat 1 seat 2 seat 3

1984-1990 Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager

test

1990 Ford Mini Van

1934-1946 GMC Tail Lights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Early GMC Tail Light

Though items were shared between GMC and Chevrolet trucks between 1936 and 1946, General Motors made sure many parts remained very different during the early years the GMC preferred very few things to be similar to Chevrolet.  Their customers needed to see an almost stand-alone truck with the higher price of the GMC.

One very obvious difference is the change in tail lights.  There is no comparison to Chevrolet.  The massive GMC stamped one piece steel bracket combined with a redesigned 5-inch tail light makes the pair a “one-of-a-kind”.  They do not interchange with Chevrolet during those year.

It was not until the new body style in mid 1947 that the two brands shared tail lights. When the larger GMC’s 5-inch light was discontinued on trucks in 1947, Chevrolet introduced it on their 1949 through 1952 station wagons and early GMC buses. It was placed in the center of the gate and was the only factory light on the vehicle.

Even though 1936-1946 taillight was used for so many years, it is becoming very difficult to find. Most GMC pickup restorers use the reproduced Chevrolet rectangular design and only a few GMC perfectionists are aware that there is a difference.

A shop in the US is attempting to remake this bracket; however, if this happens the tail light will be almost as big of a project to find.  It is not being reproduced.

Hint: This tail light also was used on Chevrolet, Buick Oldsmobile Station Wagon tail gates from about 1949 through 1952.  Therefore you will see more lights than GMC brackets at swap meets.  See Photos

1934-1946 GMC Tail Lights 1934-1946 GMC Tail Lights 1950 chevy taillight 1951 old taillight

Seat Cover Kits

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Our seat cover kits are produced with an emphasis on originality. The materials are top quality for many year’s service. Seams, ribbing, etc., are based on original seats.

We recommend that installation be done by a professional upholstery company. However, if you wish to do it yourself, here are several important steps to follow:

1. Seat springs must be in original condition. No breaks, sags, etc.

2. Over springs, place one layer of burlap.

3. Over burlap, place two layers of cotton padding. Cotton must extend down over edges of outer springs.

4. Place vinyl cover over padding. Stretch evenly to eliminate wrinkles. Press special C shape clips at rear of springs to permanently hold cover in place.

5. If clips are put in place with pliers, cover the end with tape or equivalent to lessen chances to vinyl tears.

6. Wrinkles from storage will normally disappear in several days.

1955-1957 GMC Fender Emblem

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

1955 1957 gmc fender emblem

During the mid-1950’s most car and truck manufacturers begin to install optional V-8 engines in their vehicles. To set the vehicles apart from their six cylinders, V-8 emblems were designed.

This GMC front fender V-8 emblem was used during 1955 through 1957. The GMC letters were on both six and V-8 trucks.

The pictured Hydramatic emblem is removable and would not be in place on a truck with a 3 or 4 speed manual transmission.

1965 GMC Deluxe Fleetside

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the mid 1960’s, most still considered pickups work vehicles. The manufacturer designed them as haulers and few people owned them as their only family vehicle. However, a slight change was beginning with truck buyers as Americans began to have more disposable income. GM and other truck producers were aware that extras on work vehicles were finding more buyers. Each year additional pickups with deluxe equipment were ordered.

This 1965 GMC 1/2 ton is an example of this trend. Though it obviously had been a work truck, it’s optional deluxe features still remain intact. Looking at the trim shows how GMC designers were careful in adding expensive trim.

To keep cost down they placed chrome on the hub caps and grill of their base model pickup. The stainless windshield trim is identical to that placed on the Chevrolet deluxe cabs. The long anodized aluminum side trim is also Chevrolet. One exception: GMC did not use the narrow shorter side trim as found on Chevrolet fleetsides that ran parallel to this longer piece. See photo comparisons.

Most aluminum cab trim is very basic in design. Straight pieces butted together kept GMC’s cost low. Only the chrome plated die cast emblem with the word “Custom” shows extra design effort.

The curved door window trim did require extra tooling but was made of anodized aluminum. Note this aluminum window trim as it runs parallel a few inches from the windshield stainless. The use of two different materials on trim so close is very unusual.

1965 deluxe gmc fleetside 1

GMC Single Trim Strip (above)

1965 deluxe gmc fleetside 2

Chrome Standard Grille (above)

1965 deluxe gmc fleetside 3

Window Aluminum and Windshiled Stainless (above)

1965 deluxe gmc fleetside 4

Econimical Side Trim (above)

1965 deluxe gmc fleetside 5

1962-1966 Chevrolet Lower Trim (above)

1965 deluxe gmc fleetside 6

Deluxe Trim (above)

1965 deluxe gmc fleetside 7

Economical Side Trim (above)

1967 Dash Knobs

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The 1967 Chevrolet and GMC trucks are noted for numerous one year only features. As the year progressed, engineers made several changes they felt were an improvement over this first year design.

For reasons unknown, dash knobs were redesigned. The following pictures show the correct 1967standard knobs with 1.23 inch diameter serrated edges. Compare these with the 1968-72 knobs having 1.4 inch diameter and smooth edges. Pictured here are several of the deluxe style having the center silver paint. Most did not have this silver addition.

1967 dash knobs 1

1967 Choke Knob – Standard (above)

1967 dash knob 2

1967 Light and Wiper Knobs – Standard (above)

1967 dash knobs 3

1968-1972 Choke Knob – Deluxe (above)

1967 dash knob 4

1968-1972 Wiper Knob – Standard (above)

1967 dash knob 5

1968-1972 Light and Wiper Knobs – Deluxe (above)

1960-1966 Chevrolet Differences

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

To keep production costs down during the 1960-66 Chevrolet truck series, GM made very few changes on their ½, ¾, and 1 ton. Only the more skilled truck enthusiast can correctly identify each year in this series. Keep this following data close at hand when you evaluate these years.

1960

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 1

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 2

Dual headlights. The sheet metal part of this hood will be used only two years. The Apache name on the side plate carried from the earlier series. The Chevrolet letters are stamped in the bottom of the grill housing.


1961

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 3

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 4

A grill modification places the Chevrolet letters in the center of an insert. Half ton wheels change from having three clips to three nubs in their center to secure a different design hub cap.


1962

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 5

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 6


1963

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 7

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 8

Only year in the series with round headlight rings. The side fender emblem is more vertical in shape. The final year in the series for the classic wraparound windshield. This also will change shape of the doors and result in a completely redesigned dash. This is the big year for major mechanical changes. A new design short stroke 230 six cylinder is standard. The famous 235 six (1954-1962) is history. Torsion bar front suspension (1960-1962) is replaced with the more conventional coil spring front end.


1964

1960 1066 chevrolet differences common 9

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 10

Basically the same truck mechanically and body. GM has a good thing going! The noticeable exterior differences are the chrome side emblems. The flatter windshield is a trade mark of these four years.


1965

1960 1066 chevrolet differences common 9

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 11


1966

1960 1066 chevrolet differences common 9

1960 1966 chevrolet differences 12

1960-1961 Chevy GMC Side Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the early 1960’s GM’s majority of truck buyers chose the base truck with few dealer installed options. It was ending an era of very limited disposable income among the average US citizen.

General Motors saw the trend toward more extras on trucks and began to offer visual extras such as two tone paint, side trim, and upgraded interiors.

Though there were limited takers, both Chevrolet and GMC offered full length stainless steel side trim during 1960-61. Note: Cab and front fender trim are the same on both makes. It is the fleetside bed trim that is a different length. On the Chevrolet, the rear “C” side piece requires this trim to be shorter than the GMC. See images below.

1960 1961 chevy gmc side trim 1

Chevrolet (above)

1960 1961 chevy gmc side trim 2

GMC (above)

1960-1961 Chevrolet V8 Emblem

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

By the 1960-61 years, the V-8 emblems on Chevrolet were not placed on the truck’s doors or fender but were only on the nose of the hood. They were shaped different when the truck came with a 283 V-8 instead of the standard 235 six cylinder. The V-8 front emblems have become very difficult to locate. Most remaining trucks show much pitting on the chrome V-8.

1960 1961 chevrolet v8 emblem

1959 Deluxe Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The bed side trim moldings were used on the second year Fleetside Chevrolet deluxe pickups for just one year, 1959. General Motors waited one year after the Fleetside introduction to give their dealers time to sell all their 1958 Cameos (The end of this model) so there was not two deluxe designs available at one time.

The bed moldings added much to the 1959 deluxe pickup. In addition GM used many trim features that were once on the 1955 and 1958 Cameo cabs. These side moldings came on both 6 and 8 foot bed lengths. Thus, this bed trim was the main new expense General Motors had in creating a 1959 deluxe Fleetside. (And these new Fleetside beds could carry more merchandise than a Cameo!)

 

1959 deluxe trim 1
Oops, this truck lacks the necessary red marker reflective decal behind the three vertical openings.

1959 deluxe trim 2
The right side bed trim package, (not including the tail light bezel)

1959 deluxe trim 3
Front die cast small spear.

test
1959 Fleetside NAPCO 4×4 “Better than New”!

1958-1959 Chevrolet vs GMC Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

With the new Fleetside bed design in 1958 the Chevrolets placed a chrome emblem on the bed side with the word “Fleetside”. However, GMC referred to this new bed as a “Wideside” to not copy Chevrolet. A Wideside emblem was never created, thus the GMC bedsides are without letters. (The horizontal bedside trim is a 1959 option).

(images by Ralph Wescot)
1958 1959 trim
1959 Chevrolet
1958 1959 trim 2
1959 GMC

1956 Hydromatic Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

One of the rarest emblems of the mid-1950’s is the 1956 Chevrolet Hydramatic front fender trim. A small percentage of ’56 Chevrolet pickups were equipped with the Hydramatic, so many enthusiasts have never seen this item.

At a glance it looks like the one used with the non-automatic and thus it is often over-looked. This is a very in demand part as even restorers adding newer modern automatic transmissions are joining in the hunt.

1956 hydromatic trim

1937 – 1972 In Cab Gas Tank – Friend or Foe

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

What’s this bad rap some people give the GM pickups with in-cab gas tanks? For 35 years GM protected these tanks from collisions by double wall reinforced cab metal, doors, and seat frames. The 1937-46 pickups even secured the tank under the seat and surrounded it on three sides by the welded to floor heavy metal seat riser.

If you and your truck are ever involved in a collision so major that the gas tank begins leaking, then imagine what could be occurring if the tank was in most other places on the truck. Unless you have found a narrow tank that fits inside the frame rail and away from the drive shaft, you haven’t located a safer location than what GM used between 1937 and 1972.

For approximately 18 months, beginning with the 1947, Advance Design body style, GM placed their pickup gas tanks under the bed inside the frame rail. This location, while protected from side impacts, was very susceptible to damage from road debris. Leaks from being hit by rocks and stumps soon caused GM to again place the tanks in the cab. Possibly, a protective panel would have given the tank a shield but GM did not use this option. The tank went back in the cab.

In these older trucks you instantly smelled gasoline if the sending unit gasket or gas filler hose began to fail. Trucks with under the bed tanks usually must be parked and dripping before a person smells the vapors.

Important:  If you critique the early in-cab GM gas tanks, don’t forget what General Motors did to the truck series beginning in 1973. Can you believe? They secured the tank in their pickups to the outside of the frame rail under the bed. The only separation from a broadside accident is the single layered sheet metal bedside! It doesn’t take much of a side impact to flatten the tank with disastrous results.

SAFETY FIRST! GM had the right idea! This tank is protected by the original heavy steel seat riser surrounding it and then it sits within a double layer metal cab. Compare this with some people’s idea of hanging their gas tank behind the rear axle with very little protection from a rear end hit.

REMEMBER: the Ford Pinto that was rear-ended in the 1970’s burst into flames  and the 2 Pinto passengers were killed?  Yes, it came with a factory issued rear mounted gas tank! Check out this story on a Google search…

Don’t make your truck more dangerous than it was originally!!

in cab gas tank 1

This photo shows an in cab underseat gas tank as used between 1937 -1946…It lays inside a heavy gauge metal seat riser as well as being inside of a heavy guage double layer metal cab. (above)

in cab gas tank 2

The above photo was taken of a 1952 Chevrolet 1/2 ton daily driven pickup. The owner was so concerned about the gas tank in the cab that he placed it under the bed behind the rear axle. The non metal tank is just waiting for a rear end hit at about 20 miles per hour. The original bumper will offer little protection and the contents of the tank will fly in all directions…Is this a moving bomb ready to explode?

1955-1959 GMC Emblems

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the mid 1950’s, V-8 engines began to gain popularity. Many became an option in full size cars and trucks that normally were provided with a six cylinder. When this occurred, most vehicles were given a body emblem advertising that the larger power plant was under the hood.

1955 1959 gmc V8 emblems

1955-1957 (above left) | 1958-1959 (above right)

GMC trucks were no exception. During the 1955-59 body style, two different shapes of V-8 emblems were used. Both die cast designs were attached to the front fender below the GMC letters. The above picture shows these V-8 emblems and the different GMC letters that appeared above them. If the truck came with a six cylinder, only the letter emblem was used on the fender. Today, as many older trucks are given modern V-8 engines, the original V-8 emblems have become almost impossible to find. The demand for these rare emblems has far exceeded their availability.

Chevy and GMC Frames

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

These are some very rare photos. It is quite unusual to find 1947-1953 Chevrolet and GMC 1/2 ton bare frames together. Here, you can cmpare the differences in the front cross members.

As the GMC six cylinder is a few inches longer than the Chevrolet, engineers designed two different front engine cross members. In building the truck frame for the assembly line a different cross member was added depending if it was to be in a Chevrolet or GMC factory.

This is why re-builders of GM trucks today develop immediate problems when they exchange 6 cylinder engines between the Chevrolet and GMC. The two makes may look about the same in any year, however the power plant causes changes not only in the frame’s front cross members as well as sheet metal in this immediate area.

chevy gmc frame 1

chevy gmc frame 2

chevy gmc frame 3

Photos courtesy of Rob English

Email: rob@oldgmctrucks.com

Website: Oldgmctrucks.com

Buy Parts for 1947 to 1955 Trucks

1955-1959 GMC Bumper Guards

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

GMC bumper guards during these years were standard equipment and stamped from the same heavy gauge metal as the bumper (a different style and lighter gauge metal were dealer accessories on Chevrolet light trucks).

A slight change in design was made at the end of the 1956 year. A more decorative pointed end was given the guards during 1957 through 1959.

1955 1959 gmc bumper guards 1

1955-1959 GMC (above)

1955 1959 gmc bumper guards 2

1955-1956 GMC (above)

1955 1959 gmc bumper guards 3

1957 GMC (above)

1955 1959 gmc bumper guards 4

1957-1959 GMC (above)

1955 1959 gmc bumper guards 5

1955-1959 Chevrolet (above)

Proper 3100 Hood Side Emblem

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the Advance Design years no less than four different Chevrolet hood side emblems were used on 1/2 tons. Each of their two mounting pins are in the same place so the punched hood holes were unchanged during these years. All were chromed die cast even during the 1952-1953 Korean war chrome shortage.

The following pictures show the correct emblem for each of the years. Beware, some vendor’s catalogs do not list them correctly.

Note: Between mid-1949 through 1951, a separate small 3100 emblem was placed below the Chevrolet letter plate. Therefore, hoods during these years will have two additional factory punched holes. The longer Chevrolet emblem used between 1949-1952 are the same.

proper 3100 1

1949-1951 3100 Emblem (above)

proper 3100 2

1955 First Series (above)

proper 3100 3

1952 (above)

proper 3100 4

1953-1954 (above)

proper 3100 5

1947-1949 Thriftmaster (above)

Hood Ornament, 1947 – Early 1955

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the 1947-1955 years, no less than four different front hood emblems were used during regular production on the Chevrolet 3000 series trucks. Though all can be made to interchange during this 7 1/2 year series; for the perfectionist, there are only certain types for certain years.

hood ornaments 1a

In 1947, the 1/2, 3/4, and 1 ton Chevrolet trucks began production by displaying a chrome plated die cast emblem with dimensions of 3-3/8″ x 19″. The Chevrolet letters across the center are red and a small royal blue “BOWTIE” is above. On the back side their four attaching points (part of the casting) are threaded and extend outward to better provide metal to hold the securing screws. Because of the length of these four extensions, the hood must be provided with appropriate dimples. These dimples are necessary so the emblem can be pulled snug against the hood front.

Sometime in late 1948 and early 1949, depending on the assembly plant, this emblem changed to chrome plated stamped steel. Visually, it has the same dimensions and painting as the earlier style but is much less in weight.

In late 1952, the front of this emblem was again changed. It was now stainless steel. The four hood attaching clips (welded to the front stainless) and the threaded studs remained plain steel as in the prior style. The dimensions were as in past years. This design was carried through all of 1953. Forty five years later this stainless steel emblem is often seen at flea markets with the front skin in excellent condition but the four welded-in clips either gone or rusted beyond repair. These clips, hidden between the stainless emblem skin and the hood front, did not dry quickly between rains and the morning dew.

Because the hoods are larger on the 4000 and 6000 series 1-1/2 and 2 top Chevrolet trucks, the front emblem was formed to conform to their bigger size. Width and length dimensions are the same as the smaller 3000 series trucks and will interchange. However, to help compensate for the larger hood size, these big truck emblems are almost 1/4″ thicker at their widest point in comparison to the smaller 3000 series. Their construction materials changed during this series as did the smaller 3000 series trucks.

The 5000 series Chevrolet COE bodies (CAB OVER ENGINE) did not change their initial die cast hood emblem. It continued identical from it’s 1947 introduction through 1953. The dimensions 3-1/2″ x 26-1/2″ were much longer than the conventional cabs due to the COE’s massive one piece hood.

The 1954-1955 hood emblem was a different design and better related with the totally new grille. As Chevrolet was now stamped on the top grille bar, these letters were no longer on the emblem. The “BOWTIE” trademark became larger and the overall emblem continued with a stainless skin and plain steel inside attachments overall dimensions on the 3000 series trucks is 3-7/8″ x 21″. With this new design, the clips did not extend back as in prior years. Therefore, the dimples were not stamped in the hood. This is a quick way to tell the 1954-1955 from the earlier 1947-1953 hoods.

On the 4000 and 6000 series the 1954-55 Chevrolet emblem has an overall increase in size of approximately 20% or 4-1/8″ x 24″. This was necessary to better conform with the larger truck hood. The emblem remained a stainless steel stamping with the same appearance as the smaller trucks.

General Motors designed the 5000 series or COE emblems on the 1954-55 the same in size and style as those on the conventional cab large truck hoods with two exceptions. This COE emblem is chrome plated die cast and lacks the notches for the bullnose strip. The unique one piece size of the COE hood eliminated the need for a center divider strip and thus no center notches were in the emblem.

Early 1955 COE

All the truck “BOWTIE” emblems in 1954-1955 were Chevrolet royal blue however the valleys between the twenty four vertical ridges were painted red in 1954 and white on the early 1955 series. The GMC trucks between 1947-55 did not have a front hood emblem. Die cast GMC letters were attached to an upper grille housing.

Hood ornaments were an important part of automotive styling in the 1940’s through 50’s. However, as trucks were basically for work GM created specific ornaments for these vehicles but made them a dealer accessory. They are rare and in demand today as hobbyists now look for General Motors accessories to add to their restored trucks.

To help the dealer install the 1947-1953 Chevrolet accessory ornament correctly, the factory placed a small hole between the hood halves 33″ from their rear edge. This is for positioning the rear threaded stud of the ornament. The dealer would then drill two pair of holes on either side of the hood divider strip and the result was a perfect fit.

On the 1954-1955 Chevrolets, the accessory ornament was totally changed in design. A chrome eagle with low wings was attached to a die cast base. To save expenses GM used the same eagle that was also an accessory on 1953-54 Chevrolet passenger cars. The mounting base was not the same partially due to the difference in the width of car and truck hood bullnose strips. Between 1947-55, the dealer installed GMC accessory hood ornament did not change. It had a very narrow die cast mounting base attaching directly to the bullnose strip. This supports an attractive streamlined jet plane. It does not resemble the Chevrolet ornament.

GMC Hood Ornament

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

These chrome hood ornaments were exclusively tooled for GMC trucks and have no similarity to the Chevrolet style. They are made up of three attached die cast pieces to create the finished product. Their slim base secures to the center of the hood divider strip.

These were dealer installed GMC accessories. As trucks at that time were mostly for work responsibilities, few owners had an interest in appearance options. Thus, these hood ornaments were rarely seen on trucks when new. Locating new or restorable unit 50 years later is almost an impossibility

gmc hood ornament 1

1954-1955 GMC Bed Reflector

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

By 1954, the Korean War shortages were history. More trim and chrome plating began to show up in trucks and cars. The Chevrolet and GMC truck divisions both introduced a deluxe model for their pickups during mid-year 1954. Hopes were to appeal to the emerging buyers with more disposable income.

The deluxe model of these two trucks shared most of the same sheet metal, however special unique items kept each individual! One of these exclusive items was used only on the top of the line GMC pickup. This was the bed-roll reflector. It was never placed on Chevrolets or the basic GMC pickup.

In today’s world this extra is almost impossible to locate. Not only was it on the deluxe GMC’s but few of these top of the line models found buyers. Most still thought of trucks as workers and ordered the basic vehicle. This reflector is on the very end of the bed roll and it is exposed to being damaged while backing.

To save tooling costs, GMC designers borrowed the red reflector lens from the 1953 Buick taillight. Unfortunately, the stainless ring (riveted to the bed roll) is exclusive only to the rare deluxe GMC pickup.

1954 gmc bed reflector 1

1954 gmc bed reflector 2

1954 gmc bed reflector 3

1954 gmc bed reflector 4

1954 First Chevrolet Truck Wheel Cover

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

1954 wheel cover 1

It’s 1954 and the Korean War is now history. The wholesale price of non-ferrous metal such as chrome, stainless steel, nickel and copper are dropping. American have more disposable income and are beginning to ask for deluxe accessories on their trucks instead of just for the family sedan.

Of the many accessories introduced in 1954, the full wheel cover was a first for any Chevrolet pickup. These stainless steel covers were not borrowed from Chevrolet cars. They were exclusive for the 1/2 ton pickup 16′ wheel. These were Chevrolet dealer installed accessories and not added on the assembly line.

Today, locating a restorable set of these unusual accessories is very difficult. Many sets that were left over in dealer stock probably found their way to the used car lot to dress up a trade in.

Note: Don’t confuse these covers with the 1947-48 Chevrolet car, deluxe 16′ wheel covers. They have red centers and a different stamping in this area.

1954 wheel cover 2

1953 Accessory Ornament

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

In the 1953 Chevrolet truck accessory book, there is a charging bull head displayed as an optional hood ornament. During my past 20 plus years in this hobby, I have heard reference toward this accessory but have never seen an example or heard of another person seeing one. Does a reader have one? Has anyone seen this option on an original truck? Did this ornament actually make production after the 1953 booklet was printed in late 1952?

1953 accessory ornament 1

Accessory Hood Ornament

11953 accessory hood ornament 2

Difference – 1947-55 GMC Grilles

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the Advance Design years, 1947-55, Chevrolet and GMC each changed their grille designs twice. GMC made the change at the end of the second year and Chevrolet made the change at the end of the seventh year.

Possibly to save tooling cost GMC, not Chevrolet, always used the same grille on all truck sizes in any one year. As Chevy used a similar but slightly larger grill on their 1 1/2 and 2 ton. GMC did not change the size on trucks between 1/2 and 2 tons.

In 1947-48 GMC used a three bar heavy gauge chrome steel grille. Actually, it was for the heavy weight for the 2 tons but fit in the 1/2 ton by using a smaller grill surround.

The big grille change for GMC was in 1949 when it was made as a four bar design. To the non truck enthusiast, it looked somewhat like the earlier years which is probably what GMC designers planned.

Current GMC grille reproductions are often sold as 1947=55. Actually they are the four bar type for 1949-55. The 1947-48 GMC owners get a surprise due to the modifications needed to fit the later reproduction grille into their early housing!

Click on images below to enlarge

1947-1948 Three Bar Grille 1947-1948 Three Bar Grille C.O.E Four Bar Grille
Three to Five Ton Four Bar Grille
Half Ton to One Ton Four Bar Grille
Half Ton to One Ton Four Bar Grille

1947-1953 Chevrolet Grille Restoration Tips

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

1947 1953 grill restoration 1

 

Between 1947-1953 the Chevrolet 1/2, 3/4, and 1 ton grilles were made from the same tooling. However, the paint colors and some with chrome plating made a difference. For the perfectionist, the following data will help you build a correct grille during your restoration.

Painted Grilles

1947-1948

The standard grille has inner and outer bars the body color. Horizontally, a pin stripe is run on the edge of the five outer bars. It is the same color as the cab stripe.

1949 to Mid 1951

Standard grillexs have outer bars the body color without a horizontal stripe. The inner back splash bars are Waldorf white.

Mid 1951-1953  (Korean War Years)

Outer bars on standard grilles are the body color as prior years. The back splash color changes to Thistle Gray (light gray) to match the newly introduced gray hub caps and bumpers due to Korean War shortages.

Chrome Grills

1947-1948

The deluxe grill has the five outer bars in chrome. The four inner bars remain the cab color.

1949-Mid 1951

Chrome grills for these years are plated on the outer bars. The back splash color remains the same white as the painted grill.

Mid 1951- 1953

Chrome grill bars were not available due to Korean War copper shortages.  Thus, these grills are the same on deluxe and standard trucks.

Vertical Bar Supports

1947-1953 Both Painted and Chrome Grilles

The two outer vertical bars touch the fenders and are therefore their color. Unfortunately, the reproduction grilles are easily recognized at shows because the owners have not often painted their outer bars fender color!  The three smaller inner vertical bars are semi-flat black. This prevents them from being easily seen when viewing the vehicle at a distance.

NOTE:  We see no reference to chrome outer bars being offered during the 1947-53 Chevrolet Advanced Design years.

1947-1948 GMC Grille and Bumper

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Used only the first 1 1/2 years into this body style, these GMC grilles stand out for their different shape and very heavy duty construction. Because of it’s weight this assembly, it sets on the frame and is given extra support by a pair of steel rods extended at an angle to the frame rail.  See photo.

The grille has three horizontal bars and uses a heavier gauge metal than the four bar grille introduced in 1949. This same unit is found during 1947 and 1948 in all 1/2 ton through 2 ton GMC trucks.

On these early 1/2, 3/4, and 1 ton trucks the splash apron from the grill to the bumper is even different. The front bumper is the most unusual. It is rounded much like an automobile and has three bumper bolts on each side.  They all have the small grill guard on the 1/2 and 3/4 ton.

Some suppliers of 1947 – Early 1955 bumpers and grilles state they are all the same.  But, they are not.  The 1947-1948 stands alone!

1947 1948 gmc grill 1

1947-1948 “3” Bar (above)

1947 1948 gmc grill

Note the 3 bumper bolts.  The center secures the front splash apron and securing braces.  The other two are used by the dealers to attach GMC accessory larger grille guards to the bumper.

1947 1948 gmc grill 2

1947-1948 “3” Bar (above)

1947 1948 gmc grill 3

1947-1948 Angle Grille Support (above)

1947 1948 gmc grill 4

1949-1955 “4” Bar (above)

1947 1948 gmc grill 4

Unique GMC Hood Ornaments

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The big news for GMC in 1936 was the introduction of their first 1/2 ton pickup. Though GMC now shared cabs with Chevrolet trucks, the visual exterior differences were mostly noticeable in front of the hood.

The GMC grill was totally redesigned and did not resemble the Chevrolet truck. This unique grill was modified little between 1936 through 1938 but the top grill ornament was changed with each of these years.

Watch for these ornaments at swap meets, antique shops, and older vehicle trade shows. They are extremely rare! Even locating the real thing for the following photos was very difficult.

1936

hood ornaments 1

The first year for the newly designed GMC 1/2 ton (cab shared with Chevrolet trucks) and the last year for the exterior radiator cap. This example of flowing artwork rivals even nicer automobiles of that year.

1937

hood ornaments 2

hood ornaments 4

The hood must be raised to reach the hidden radiator cap but a fixed die cast logo (similar to 1936) remains the focal point at the top of the grill.

1938-1946

GMC extends the smooth front hood hold down upward several inches and eliminates the die cast letters. This chrome extension (not like Chevrolet) can be just as rare as the early style. Once off the truck at a salvage yard, it soon becomes mixed with scrap iron because of no identifying GMC letters.

hood ornaments 3

Hub Caps-Used 15 Years

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Many of the tech articles on this web site emphasis’s the subtle ways that truck parts were made economically by GM. Truck often received Chevrolet car items that were used the year before. Sometimes even other GM brands sent their older items to be placed on assembly line trucks.

Of all the ways GM saved money on truck parts, none is more unique than the savings on 1/2 ton hub caps. Chevrolet pickups used the same baby moon style hub cap from 1940 through 1955. The skins and basis are the same. A relative inexpensive addition was simply changing the lettering or emblems on the outer brass skin. They required a change in tooling, not expensive for a company the size of the Chevrolet Motor Division. The stamping department just kept making the same base and skins. The skin surface stamping changed as was required by the design department each year.

Check the following pictures. The base hub caps are all the same. Some of the car hub caps are the same as the trucks. Even GMC trucks decided to use these caps between 1947-55. After all, just placing the three GMC letters on the skin added much savings to the company’s bottom line.

hub caps 1

1940 Chevrolet 1/2, 3/4 ton and car (above)

hub cap 2

1941-1946 1/2 ton, 1941- 1945 3/4 ton, and 1942 -1948 car (above)

hub cap 3

1947-1951 GMC, Chrome (above)

hub cap 4

1947-1951 Chevrolet, Chrome (above)

hub cap 5

1954-1955 1st Chevrolet (above)

hub cap 6

1952-1953 Chevrolet Painted (above)

Early GMC Hood Side Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Early GMC trucks changed their hood side emblems about as much as Chevrolet, however there is no similarity in appearance. The following shows the GMC changes over 14 years.

1935-36   Anodized silver aluminum with a semi-flat black background. (In 1936, GMC entered the light truck market and carried the emblem from larger trucks of earlier year) Right and left are the same.

test

 

1937   One year only! Made just like the 1935-36 except for the short wing extensions on each end.

test

early gmc hood side trim 1

1937 GMC Hood Side Trim

 

1938-46   A more streamline design was carried through 1946. Its streamlined rounded point on only the front creates a different part for the right and left.

early gmc hood 2

1938 – 1946 GMC Hood Side Trim

Counterfeit Hub Caps

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Companies outside the Chevrolet Motor Division have always produced replacement parts for the aftermarket industry. Manufacturers begin reproducing non-original parts very soon after a new vehicle is introduced.

A problem occurs on decorative trim such as hub caps. Here, Chevrolet (and other manufacturers), display their logo to attract positive attention. To reproduce a Chevrolet hub cap, non-GM companies have at times altered the bow tie logo. In this way, they have avoided legal action by GM and market a hub cap that was close to the original. Their hope is that most people would not notice the small changes. These caps were usually produced in the 1930’s ‘ 40’s and marketed through auto parts stores or by mail order.

In today’s world, these caps have become very rare as few collectors use them on their vehicles. GM has now given approval for reproducing these obsolete correct logo caps and most collectors want the real thing. The few remaining ‘counterfeit’ caps have a place on your garage wall with their unique history.

counterfeit hub caps 1

counterfeit hub caps 2

counterfeit hub caps 3

1939-1940 Chevrolet GMC Grilles

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The 1939-1940 Chevrolet and GMC grilles may look the same when they are seen separately, however they are not! By sharing fenders, hood top, headlight stands, etc. , the grilles overall dimensions had to be the same. To keep each marquee individual, GM made the grilles different. When the two are compared side by side, what a difference!

1939-1940 GMC Grill
1940 Chevrolet Grill
1939-1940 GMC Grille
1940 Chevrolet Grille

 

1936 vs 1937-1938 GMC Grilles

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

 

Though at quick glance, the GMC grilles of these two years may seem the same, however, look close. Changes at the top show slight differences. The die cast assembly at the top of the 1937 grille gives the impression that the vertical grille bars extend through the emblem. They don’t! It’s an illusion and is die cast. The hood ornament above repeats the GMC letters.

The 1938 doesn’t have the upper die cast vertical bars. They even eliminated the GMC letters on the hood ornament.

All these emblems are extremely rare. If they have the GMC letters they usually go in a hobbyist collection. If they don’t have the GMC letters, most people don’t know what they are once separated from the truck in a salvage yard and they go to the iron pile.

1936 grill 1

1936 Grille (above)

1937 grill2

1937-38 Grille Bars (above)

1938 grill 3

1938 Upper Grille Bar Housing (above)

 

Rear Axle Bumpers

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The placement of rear axle bumpers by GM on 1/2 tons proved to be an important feature. Owners can often load cargo over recommended weights, their shock absorbers may lose their resistance, and there is the existence of uneven road surfaces. All this can make axle bumpers very important.

During the hauling of freight, these bumpers occasionally stop metal to metal contact between the frame rails and the axle housing. GM placed them just above the rear axle.
See photos.

rear axle bumper

1947-1953 1/2 ton (above)

In 1954 GM increased the depth of the 1/2 ton pickup bed from 15″ to 18″. To do this they lowered the frame rail arch above the rear axle. This shortage of space caused the bumper to be placed at the side of the frame but still above the axle.

rear axle bumper

1954 1/2 ton (above)

1972 Door

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

One might assume that because the 1967-1972 cabs are the same, there is also no difference in the doors. Yes, they will interchange, however, there are several visible door differences for 1972.

During this year only, a countersunk hole exists in the interior door panel several inches from the wing vent vertical post. A Phillips screw here helps prevent the interior and exterior door panels from separating with this improvement the horizontal window seal stays in better alignment with the side glass.

The full interior door panel was updated in 1972. A sub panel (wood grained on the deluxe model) covers the upper area behind the door handle and window crank. This raised panel requires the handle studs to be approximately a 1/2 inch longer. Therefore a use 1972 window regulator and door remote will not properly interchange with a 1967-1971 door.

1972 door

Early Leaf Springs

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Leaf spring width on 1/2 ton pickups remained at 1 3/4 inches until the introduction of the two inch width on the Task Force 1/2 tons in mid 1955. The early narrow springs worked well considering the engine horsepower and weight limitations of the 1/2 tons. The two inch springs became standard equipment on the rear of the 3/4 ton in 1946 but their fronts still remained the smaller size. This is because the increased weight carrying ability of the 3/4 ton is mostly felt in the rear. Only 1 ton and heavier were totally without the 1 3/4 inch springs.

With the abuse given pickups in the early days (poor roads, overloading, and almost no lubrication), the springs have held up well. Most mid 1955 and older 1/2 tons continue to operate with their tired original narrow springs.

In today’s world a new variable exists that puts even more demands on these small springs. It is the increased horsepower of later model engines. No problem if these trucks, converted to more powerful engines, are driven as if they still have their original six cylinder. However, problems arise with jack rabbit starts with or with a heavy freight load. Most of these Advance Design 1/2 ton’s with transplanted V-8’s have had their original closed drive shafts replaced with open systems. The replacement axle housings are clamped to the 1 3/4 inch rear springs. When heavy acceleration is forced on these modified trucks, the axle housings try to rotate due to the extra torque. Much of this movement is held in check by these narrow springs. They just weren’t designed for this. Breakage and permanent bending can occur.

Don’t push your 1 3/4 inch rear leaf springs beyond their limits. If you demand fast acceleration with your V-8 1/2 ton, convert to later model 2″ or 2 1/2″ springs. Check specialized suppliers, including Jim Carters Truck Parts (part # HP580), for add-on kits.

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Tailgate Trim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

It was during these years that General Motors began offering more style to their pickup truck line. Though most still considered a truck as a work vehicle, a growing segment of pickup buyers were being strongly influenced by trim and accessories that even rivaled many automobiles.

For the first time on GM fleetside pickups, decorative trim became available on the tailgate of their middle and upper level models. Even on the basic gate that had no trim, the stamped letters were given a contrasting color. During all of 1967-1972, the middle and more deluxe series gates carried three upper strips making one line running the width of the gate. These three strips were the only tailgate trim offered for 1967-1968. During 1969-1972, an additional horizontal strip (66 3/4′ long) was attached to the lower gate edge but only on the middle series fleetsides.

It was on the top of the line 1969-1972 pickup that Chevrolet went all out in tailgate appearance. On the 1969-70 CST and 1971-1972 Cheyenne, the lower trim strip was replaced with a very attractive wood grained horizontal band at the center. Though it covered the basic Chevrolet and GMC stamped gate letters, the band carried its own chrome die cast letters over the wood (vinyl) decal.

The following photos show both the three styles of trim on the 1967-1972 fleetsides. Note the lower narrow strip is not placed on the gate with the wood band. Tail light rings or bezels are designed to harmonize with the tailgate trim. The 1967-1968 CST light trim is different than the later design.

tailgate trim 1

1969-1972 Middle Series (above)

tailgate trim 2

1969-1972 Cheyenne (above)

tailgate trim 3

1967-1972 Chevrolet (above)

tailgate trim 4

1967-1968 Chevrolet CST (above)

1969-1970 Chevrolet Grills

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

In recent years, the 1969-1970 Chevrolet non-metal grille insert has been sold as one item. This is not the way they came!

Each of the two years used a grille insert of a different design. The 1970 style is now the one you receive when you order either year. Thus, a pure 1969 insert is becoming very difficult to locate.

1969 1970 chevrolet grills 1

1969 (above)

1969 1970 chevrolet grills 2

1970 (above)

1967-1972 GMC Grills

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The main cross grill stamping making up the 1967-1972 GMC grilles may at first appear the same but they definitely are not.

The more noticeable difference is the large GMC letters stamped in the center of the 1967 grille (one year only). Therefore, these three letters are not placed on the hood front as during 1968-1972. Between 1967-1970, the vertical center bar (3″ x 10″) is slightly raised above the outer edges.

This vertical center bar on the 1971-1972 GMC grille is slightly depressed between its outer edges. This depression is painted satin black. At a distance, it gives the appearance of a split grille with two equal halves.

1967 1972 gmc grills 1

1967 (above)

1967 1972 gmc grills 2

1968-1970 (above)

1967 1972 gmc grills 3

1971-1972 (above)

1967 GMC Super Custom

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

1967 GMC Super Custom

1967 gmc super custom

During the first year of this new body design GMC’s top of the line was referred to as the “Super Custom”. An unusual piece of chrome die cast trim was added to this model in the center of the front fender this year. (not on Chevrolet) It is identifiable in the GMC Master Parts Book as: Group# 10.095, Part# 3903748/

It is now very difficult to find and probably will never be reproduced.

NOTE: This factory drawing shows the now rare full wheel covers, on the Super Custom.

 

Low Cost Front Suspension Upgrade

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The straight axle ½ ton GM pickups (1959 and older) were built tough! They served their purpose as the best in work vehicles for over 30 years. Other than an occasional kingpin replacement, they were almost ‘bullet proof’.

In today’s world, the reasons for owning an older truck, has generally changed. Most have been retired from work responsibilities and have become ‘fun trucks’ driven with care on smooth streets. Hauling merchandise is far down the list of their use.

The resulting demand for a smoother ride and better braking is the reason for many suspension options available from supply houses. For those willing to compromise on originality for an easier ride, one of the most proven and less expensive upgrades is the front suspension of the AMC Pacer. The price is right and the results are excellent. This coil spring rack and pinion front suspension assembly gives passenger steering and ride qualities.

A specialized adapter plate (available from the catalog on this web site, HP127) allows for the connection to your ½ ton truck. Instructions explain parts to remove from the Pacer assembly before the plate is welded in place. The total assembly is then bolted to the truck front cross member. No cutting on your truck! You can even trim the Pacer coil springs to get a lowered level on the total vehicle.

The adapter plate is not expensive. The main project is locating a good Pacer front suspension. This AMC vehicle was produced between 1975 and about 1982. The later years even had disc brakes.

low cost 1

AMC Pacer (above)

low cost 2

1947-1953 Advance Design (above)

Lever Action Shock Absorbers

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

 

lever action shock

Early Rear Axle Bumper

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Mechanical components on trucks were usually kept for many years by GM. Unless an improvement was needed, there was no need to change a proven design.

early axle 1

An excellent example of this is the rear ½ ton axle bumper. The design was used from 1929 through 1946 on Chevrolet and GMC ½ tons. A rubber bumper is held down on the rear axle housing by a metal cover with two ears. These ears are firmly secured by the two u-bolts that connect the leaf spring to the round axle housing. If the truck is overloaded or the shock absorbers are worn, the rubber bumper prevents metal to metal contact between the axle and frame rail.

Two of the attached photos show an original used retainer with bumper in place. The black bumper (now reproduced) is how the rubber part looks when new.

early axle 2

early axle 3

early axle 4

early axle 5

Suburban Seating

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

suburban seating 1

An original drawing of a 1949 Chevrolet Suburban from their sales brochure. Shown with its rated seven passengers. NOTE: The lady driver emphasizes that it does not drive like a truck! (The hotel employee is probably wondering how he will place the suit cases and golf clubs in the space behind the third seat)

Suburban Seating

With the increased popularity of the Advance Design Suburbans (1947-1955), questions are often asked in regards to the proper seat arrangement. This eight passenger vehicle was the only GM “people hauler” on a truck chassis and still remains a popular carrier for the family.

This body style was only produced on a 1/2 ton 116″ wheelbase chassis (the same as a pickup except for 4 riveted right angle brackets to better support the body). The extra weight capacity and stiff ride of a 3/4 ton was not necessary for a vehicle carrying passengers and expected to do almost no towing.

Two seats at front consist of a 3/4 unit for the driver which can be adjusted several inches front and back. The far right non-adjusting jump seat is designed to tip forward and allow passengers access to the rear seats.

The middle unit is also only the 3/4 size. It has the same size cushions that are used by the driver, however, the framework does not adjust. It must be this 3/4 width to give room for passengers to reach the rear seat.

This back seat has full length “crowded” three passenger cushions. In today’s world, it is the rarest seat! Though all Suburbans originally had this back seat, many were removed to give more loading capacity for merchandise. They were probably put in storage or used as a seat in the barn and then forgotten years later when the Suburban was sold to the second owner.

suburban seating 2

suburban seating 1

Suburban Frames

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Over the years we have been asked ‘Where can we locate the chassis frame for a Suburban or panel truck?’ The answer is not complicated. To save much money General Motors used a modified frame from a pickup. The difference is four right angle brackets riveted to the frame. These provide an attaching point for the large single unit body (Suburban and panel truck).

On most pickups, these frame holes are even punched at the factory so the long side rails can be used for either body style. Therefore, if your Suburban or panel truck needs a frame, your hunt will be less difficult. The attached photos show body mount brackets on a 1954 as they were installed at the factory.

suburban frames 1

suburban frames 2

suburban frames 3

suburban frames 4

One Piece Panel Truck Floor

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Beginning in 1950, GM introduced an improvement in the cargo area of the panel truck and Canopy Express. It now followed the example of the Suburban by using a one piece, 5 ply floor. This replaced the planks that were always used in the pickup.

GM implied this would better seal dirt and dust from an otherwise closed area used to haul merchandise and food products.

The following data and picture is as removed from a 1950 pamphlet announcing new features for that year.

one piece floor

one piece floor

1947-1955 Suburban Interiors

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Since their beginning in 1935, the Chevrolet Suburban was always the “people hauler” of General Motors commercial fleet of trucks. They were designed to carry more weight on rough roads than was the passenger car station wagon. While trucks were carrying freight from the time of their purchase, Suburban’s were reserved for passengers! It became an immediate success with the military, as a school bus on smaller rural routes, for transporting people from train and bus stations to hotels, etc.

After WWII, the Advance Design Suburban body design (introduced in 1947) began to attract more individual owners for family transportation needs. To better provide this with limited expense, General Motors added just a few extras for appearance. This was tan rubber floor mats and a two tone painted interior. Neither was like what was on the pickup or large trucks.

The Suburban interior colors are Pecan Brown and Wicker Brown. This all harmonized with the brown headliner, floor mat and seat upholstery. All makes a nice interior package with little extra expense to GM.

The following should help the restorer have an even a better idea of the 1947-53 Advance Design Suburban when new. Photos are of a 1953 untouched Suburban that was left with original paint and used as a fire department ambulance in Lamont, Illinois. Photos taken about 2005 after being bought from the city of Lamont.

Because General Motors always kept production cost as low as possible on truck related models, they designed the Suburban on the pre-existing 1/2 ton pickup chassis as well as using the same sheet metal on its doors, front end, and dash. To dress up the body for passengers, GM added these extra appearance features not found on their trucks. Though these additions were nice, they were still a long way from the appointments on the cars and station wagons being sold in the same dealerships.

The door panel frames and removable interior window trim of the 1947-53 are a shade darker, Wicker Brown as in photo E. Even the seat frames were also this darker brown, photo f. The seat upholstery is brown Spanish grain while trucks in 1947-1953 were maroon. The cardboard door panels match the seat texture and color. The tan floor mats and red brown door windlace colors are Suburban only.

The lighter Pecan Brown was placed on the body sheet metal that became part of the total assembly. This is inner quarter panels, doors, dash, tailgate or double doors, and front seat riser. All was painted at one time after being welded together as a single unit. See Photos.

One very different touch on the Suburban over the truck is the color of the seven horizontal ridges on their 1947-1951 dash. Note picture A and B. These ridges are the color of the darker interior trim. Photo C shows the truck (not Suburban) dash ridges which were silver to closely match the upper and lower dash horizontal stainless.

By 1952-1953 the dash stainless had been exchanged for painted steel due to Korean War shortages. Then both the Suburban and truck dashes were without contrasting colors but still kept overall interior coloring. See photo D.

In 1954-1955 the Suburban and truck body shared a new redesigned dash panel and the interior body colors were also changed. The two body styles now used the same pearl beige color on their interior metal. A medium brown Spanish grain vinyl was on the seats of both body styles. Contrasting color interior window frames were not on the 1954-1955 Suburban as seen on earlier Advance Design models. They were the color of the main body panels.

If you have decided to restore your rare early Advance Design Suburban as it left the factory, these tips can separate the men from the boys in serious judging. To some it may be just as important for the daily driver.

1947 1955 suburban interiors 1

Photo A (above)

1947 1955 surburban interiors 2

Photo B (above)

1947 1955 surburban interiors 3

Photo C (above)

1947 1955 surburban interiors 4

Photo D (above)

1947 1955 surburban interiors 5

Two Tone Door Panel (above)

1947 1955 surburban interiors 6

Photo E (above)

1947 1955 surburban interiors 7

Photo F (above)

1965 Chevy Deluxe Suburban

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the mid 1960’s many Americans began to request deluxe features on trucks. More disposable income put extra items in reach for many households. GM recognized this area for more income and began adding more extra cost options.

The popular standard Suburban could be transformed into a more family vehicle by offering exterior trim and upgrading the interior. It would be even better for a family vehicle as well as pulling a boat or travel trailer. Highways were being improved and Americans wanted to see the country.

A more deluxe Suburban emerged in the 1960’s. To same GM costs, most components were simply from the top of the line Chevrolet pickup. Even the side trim was from the fleetside pickup. It only had length differences and the word “Custom” was engraved on each side.

Following are pictures of a rare 1965 deluxe Suburban. The outside is all original except for new paint. The interior had recently been changed so the attached photo is from an original salesman’s data book showing a deluxe pickup. The nicer appearing and more comfortable cushions also apply to the deluxe Suburban. Note the deluxe steering wheel (actually GM used this from a 1960 Impala), trim band on the glove box door, and the two tone color pattern on door panels.

1965 chevy suburban 1

Chrome bumper and anodized grill (above)

1965 chevy suburban 2

The rear appears to have no changes from the standard model other that the chrome bumper (above)

1965 chevy suburban 3

The upper side anodized aluminum trim is the same as the deluxe pickup except for the length differences. Even the short from spear starting the trim strip is the same as the pick up (above)

1965 chevy suburban 4

Note the word CUSTOM etched on the side trim (above)

1965 chevy suburban 5

Suprising, the windshield rubber does not hold stainless trim (above)

1965 chevy suburban 6

Custom comfort interior (above)

1965 chevy suburban 7

Deluxe Steering Wheel (above)

1947 vs. 1948 – 1955 Cab Water Trough

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

A GM mistake on the 1947 Advance Design cab is the lack of a water trough on the top of the cowl. Heavy rains allowed water to run under the hood and down the firewall. No doubt some water damage would occur to the voltage regulator and the cloth covered wiring harness.

By 1948 GM corrected this problem by adding a side to side trough in the cowl. The photos show cowls with and without this water trough.

It should be noted that this trough is still lacking during the 1948 in slower selling cabs such as the Suburban and Panel Truck. Possibly these bodies were produced a year ahead.

new water drain 1

1947  no water troughs (above)

new water drain 2

1948-1955  water troughs in place (above)

1962 GMC Deluxe Suburban

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Suburbans ‘ people haulers on a 1/2 ton truck chassis. Not designed for truck freight, the successful Suburban was created to move people. They quickly gained popularity among the military, as crew haulers for companies, and for small rural school buses.

By the 1960’s, GM began to expand their Suburban market to attract families. To many this would be a great heavy-duty family car. A more deluxe Suburban model was introduced. The exterior trim and well appointed interior defiantly showed this model was not for commercial use.

These pictures of a 1962 top of the line GMC Suburban show the unique trim that was placed on this model. It is for GMC only ‘ not Chevrolet. Though Chevrolet shared the same body and some chassis parts; trim, interior, and colors were different so each brand could be individual.

Look closely and see how the GMC brand kept their cost of side trim to a minimum. Other than the curves around the front door windows, straight pieces of aluminum trim make up the package. The more obvious economy steps are on the rear quarter panel. Note vertical and horizontal trim strips simply butt together. They also act as paint divider strips for the two-tone paint combination of the GMC. The die cast chrome ‘custom’ emblem in the same as on the GMC pickup.

This is an excellent example of a very original GMC Suburban interior. The woven green seat material is as it was 40 years ago. The right jump seat swings up and forward to gain access to the rear. Note how the middle seat is shorter so that the passengers can walk to the rear.

Today, even finding a 1960-1966 GMC Suburban is rare but locating one with this deluxe custom package is almost impossible.

1962 gmc 1

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Big Truck Deluxe Cab

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

An exception occurs on the 1 1/2 ton and 2 ton trucks. Though the cabs are the same as the smaller trucks, these deluxe cabs consisted of only the two corner windows. The Salesman’s Data Book shows no reference to a chrome grille or window stainless.

As money was tight and big trucks were all for work duties, it is assumed GM decided that the trim option would not be a good marketing item on the large vehicles. The corner windows were definitely a sellable extra. Visibility from these two additional windows helped much in backing.

The lower photo is from an untouched 1947 Chevy 1 1/2 ton. The corner window cabs have no trim!

big truck deluxe cab 1

Deluxe Small Truck (above)

big truck deluxe cab 2

Deluxe Big Truck (above)

1960-1966 GMC Deluxe Suburban Seats

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The seats on this 1962 GMC Suburban are pure factory original. Their shape is designed for only the Suburban body. They allow for access to the rear seat.

Horizontal white vinyl in the back rest is characteristic of many GM vehicles during this era. It was an extra touch that added a little extra flair to the deluxe models.

1960 gmc deluxe seats 1

1960 gmc deluxe seats 2

1960 gmc deluxe seats 3

1960 gmc deluxe seats 4

1960 gmc deluxe seats 5

Advance Design Speedometers

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

No less than five speedometers were used in Chevrolet trucks during the Advance Design years, 1947-1955. If you want your truck just right, be sure you understand the differences. Restoring one you have on a shelf or purchased at a swap meet may not be proper for your year. The following will provide a description of differences.


1947 speedometer

1947

Red-Orange needle. Lower two tabs 4 3/4″ apart. 80 MPH (A clear needle means the color has faded away.)


1947 speedometer

1948

Red-Orange needle. Lower two tabs 6″ apart. 80 MPH


1947 speedometer

1949-1951

White needle, lower two tabs 6″ apart. 80 MPH


1947 speedometer

1952-1953

White needle, lower two tabs 6″ apart. 90 MPH


1947 speedometer

1954-1955

Totally different from earlier years. Silver needle over black face. Few parts interchange


Then there is the GMC speedometers used during 1947-1955 (Only 1952-1953 are the same.) That is another story!